2 Samuel 22:8-15 – The Lord is a Mighty Warrior

This description of the Lord is fearsome Warrior-King who destroys the Chaos of the Sea  This section may be a surprise for some readers since it describes God as a majestic warrior who utterly destroys his enemies in his righteous anger.  In addition, the imagery in this section reflects an ancient Canaanite world view.  The God -King is a warrior who rides on the clouds and utter destroys his enemies.  For example, in Ugarit Baal is described as the “Rider of the Clouds” who stands in the midst of the gods as a mighty warrior ready to battle the Seas.  For example, when Ba’lu the Storm god threatens to destroy Yammu, the Sea, the craftsman deity Kôtaru-wa-Hasisu announces:

I hereby announce to you, Prince Ba’lu,  and I repeat, Cloud–Rider: As for your enemy, O Ba’lu, as for your enemy, you’ll smite (him), you’ll destroy your adversary. You’ll take your eternal kingship, your sovereignty (that endures) from generation to generation. (CTA 2:4.727).

The description of God in verses 8-15 resonate with the Canaanite myths, but there are differences.  Immediately after this announcement, Kôtaru-wa-Hasisu creates two maces for Ba’lu, who then attacks Yammu, stikes him in the head, and then “Ba’lu grabs Yammu and sets about dismembering (him).”

The song in 2 Sam 22 does use imagery which is similar to the myth, but David’s God does not need weapons to destroy the Chaos of the Sea, He merely rises from his throne, stoops down to rescue David, and then with a word utterly destroys the enemy.

  • He rides a war chariot on the “wings of the wind.”  Ezekiel 1-3 describes the Cherubim as a kind of royal chariot or movable throne typical among Ancient Near East royalty.
  • He wears dark clouds and water as a canopy.  The chariot is enclosed with a canopy (סֻכָּה( to shade the King from the sun.  In the context of a flash-flood, it is possible that gathering of water into a canopy eliminates the threat of the floods washing over David.  This canopy appears in Isa 4:6 to describe the cloud from the wilderness which will appear on Zion in the eschatological age as a shade for the sun.
  • He creates thunder and lighting with his word.  As a storm God, Baal is the source of lighting and thunder, as is David’s God.  Notice that God creates the lightning by speaking.
  • He “routs” the enemy.  This word (hmm, המם) almost always has God has the subject, he causes confusion and chaos in order to give victory to the outmatched Israelite army. HALOT indicates the word comes from הום, to “confuse” someone, or in the nifel to “go wild.”  It is possible that המם II was intended, a rare word which means “to suck dry” in Jer 51:34.  This would work well within the metaphor of the watery chaos of this Psalm.  The phrase appears in Ex 14:24 to describe God sending the Egyptian army into confusion and panic. (See also Judg 4:15, The Lord routs Sisera’s army, 1 Sam 7:10, the Lord routs the Philistines by sending them into confusion, Sirach 48:21, describing the Lord’s victory the Assyrians in 2 Kings, Esther 9:24, describing the confusion of Israel’s enemies.  There are several more examples in the Hebrew Bible.)

After the Lord emerges from his Temple, he lays bare the foundations of the world (verse 16).  This is important since the chaotic waters hide the foundations of the world, the Lord exposes them and destroys the power of the sea.  Unlike the myth where Yammu is knocked unconscious and rendered helpless, God causes the Sea to simply evaporate, exposing the foundations of the earth.

David describes God through metaphors and evocative language drawn from his own time and culture.  David is contrasting the gods of Canaan (Death, Destruction, Sheol) with the real God. David’s God is so real that he shatters the power of these gods and renders them powerless.

Bibliography:  William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, The Context of Scripture (Leiden; New York: Brill, 1997), 248.